Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Injured Michael Clarke declares: 'I'll play' in the first Ashes Test

Michael Clarke (right) speaks with teammate Ricky Ponting during an Australian nets session at the Cricket Australia
USMAN Khawaja was rushed to Brisbane as a standby for Michael Clarke but Australia's vice-captain said he was prepared to risk his injured back by playing in the first Ashes Test.

"If it's up to me, I'm saying let's risk it, get me out there," Clarke said after missing Australia's training session at Allan Border Field yesterday.

"But there's the rest of the series, there's the rest of my career, there's a lot of other issues to think about."

Khawaja was expected to board a 9pm flight from Sydney. He was omitted from the 13-man Test squad on Saturday, but Khawaja is held in the highest regard by those who matter, including captain Ricky Ponting and chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch.

Clarke is on a collision course with medical staff.

The enormity of the Ashes makes him desperate to get onto the Gabba on Thursday but team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris is worried about long-term damage to his back.

Today's net session will reveal Clarke's condition. Ponting is prepared to give him until just before the toss.
"I want to play," Clarke said. "Unfortunately, it's not going to be about how much I want to play. That's a given."
 "That's where the expertise of Alex plays a part. Myself, the selectors and Ricky need to listen to what he says," Clarke said.

"We've got to make the right decision for the team, too. If I can't get out there and perform, I'm hurting the team.

"If I feel like I can perform at my best, and Punter is happy to go with me, I'm certain they'll let me out there. I'm pretty confident.

"Obviously, I'm still a little bit stiff and sore, hence me not training today.

"But the plan was always for me to have a good bat tomorrow and Wednesday.

"The goal is to get as close to 100 per cent, or 100 per cent for Thursday."

Clarke has managed a degenerative disc condition since the age of 18.

"I've played 64 Tests with it," he said. "I haven't missed a Test match with it yet and I hope that continues here.

"Waking up daily, like everybody, there are parts of your body that hurt more than others when I get out of bed.

"If it happens during the game, you do whatever you can to get through.

"I remember in 2005, it happened first ball when we were fielding at Old Trafford and I batted in those two innings.

"I don't want to miss a Test with injury. Once you're batting, once the adrenaline takes over, that takes away a lot of the pain."

Ponting said Clarke would be ruled out if he was unable to bat today.

Hilditch said: "As there is some doubt over Michael Clarke's fitness for the Brisbane Test match, it was felt prudent to bring a standby player into the squad.

"Usman has been added as a result of his strong recent domestic form and the belief that should the opportunity arise, he has the ability to perform well at the international level."


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